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MTA Device to Help Prevent Car Accidents by Distracted Bus Drivers

Nashville municipal bus drivers will soon have a gadget that could help them curb any urge they may have to talk on cell phones while driving. The Metro Transit Authority is installing a new device in all city buses that blocks the driver's cell phone signal while securing the phone from theft. The city hopes that an additional barrier between a bus driver and his or her phone will help reduce car accidents and keep bus passengers safer.

The device is called a "Phone Blox." It is a padded box that can hold the driver's cell phone and other personal electronics. Once the items are placed inside and the bus is started up, the box is locked and cannot be opened until the bus stops and the driver applies the parking brake.

Use of Phone Blox Device Is Voluntary But May Help Reduce Distracted Driving

The MTA already has a zero-tolerance policy for bus drivers using cell phones and electronic devices while driving -- including the bus radio. Last year, only six drivers were caught violating that policy, but the agency thinks it's important to keep improving.

"This is a safety issue as we want the drivers to give 100 percent of their attention to operating the vehicle," said the MTA's chief operating officer Bob Baulsir. "If you have an electronic device in your hand, that's distract[ed] driving."

Although use of the Phone Blox device will be voluntary, MTA officials hope it will not only reinforce anti-distracted-driving messages but also provide a practical way to keep drivers from being tempted to make a quick call. Distracted driving may account for up to 30 percent of all motor vehicle accidents, and a city bus accident is a major headache, at the very least -- and it could be a tragedy.

The Nashville MTA is the first to use the Phone Blox as part of a pilot program, and it won a Gold Award for Safety last year from the American Public Transportation Association for implementing the program.

The agency began installing the devices in April 2010, and more than half the fleet has been fitted with the units so far.

"We are setting the standard for everyone else, since no one else in the country has done this," Baulsir told reporters. "We see it moving to a permanent fixture on the bus."

Source: The Tennessean, "MTA to install new safety device on city buses," By Nancy DeVille, January 11, 2011


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